Venture capitalists have taken to heart a statement attributed to a World War II naval commander Admiral Ernest Joseph King: “I don’t know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that [U.S. Gen. George C.] Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.”
So, too, do investors, who poured a stunning $1.7 billion in early-stage funding into Chinese logistics startup Manbang Group. The three-year-old truck-hailing platform that matches shippers with drivers and fleet operators has so far raised $3.6 billion, according to the web site Crunchbase.com.
Manbang, based in Guiyang, China, tops a list of venture capital magnets during the fourth quarter of 2020, followed by four other Chinese software, internet retail and automotive startups. Two Chinese educational software startups raised north of $1 billion in the previous quarter while Shanghai-based electric vehicle startup Enovate Motors attracted $74 million, according to BuyShares, a London-based financial services firm.
While Chinese startups dominated the list of top investment targets during the previous quarter, U.S. companies accounted for about 40 percent of the biggest technology bets. Among the gainers was Robinhood, the controversial zero-commission stock brokerage caught up in the recent GameStop-Reddit stock frenzy.
Robinhood was flying high prior to online trading kerfuffle, with investors betting $67 million on the fintech startup in a Series G round, pushing its VC total to $5.6 billion.
Chime, another financial services startup, rang up $53 million in venture funding during the fourth quarter. The San Francisco-based “neobank” helps its customers avoid bank fees via a mobile app. It claims more than 8 million account holders.
BuyShares’ top ten VC magnets during the last quarter was heavy on services and light on stuff. Rounding out its top 10 rankings was
Relativity Space, the California-based aerospace startup using proprietary 3D printing technology to fabricate rocket components. BuyShares said the four-year-old firm raised half-a-billion dollars in the last quarter, raising its venture capital total to $685 million. Relativity has gained NASA launch contracts, and plans to launch its first 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket later this year.
Meanwhile, early returns during the first quarter of 2021 indicate venture capitalists will continue to throw cash at technology firms. Earlier this week, for instance, data platform specialist Databricks reported a $1 billion funding round, pushing its market valuation north of $28 billion.
The huge investment rekindled speculation the AI platform startup behind the Apache Spark analytics engine was edging closer to an initial stock offering. Equally possible is an acquisition, perhaps by one of Databrick’s early investors that include Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.